My name is Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, and I’m 21 years old. I attend the University of Winnipeg and currently in my 4th year in Indigenous Studies and Political Science, and work as a mentor at Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc. (Children of Tomorrow). I moved to Winnipeg in 2009 when I was 15 from Sagkeeng First Nation. I knew no one but just a few relatives. The smell of the cars exhaust fumes, the noise of busy streets, sirens wailing, too many strange faces all around me, and the light pollution at night. It wasn’t the greatest experience to say the least. I immediately missed living in Sagkeeng. I missed the Winnipeg River, the magnificent stars above me, the smell of organic farmed home cooked meals, and the sounds of animals and birds in the bushes. The bush was my backyard. I would spend hours beyond hours outside playing with no supervision but the trees around me. I felt content with my surroundings. Now I was in a whole new world, the ‘Urban World’. Transitioning from the reserve to the urban setting can be very difficult and at times lonesome, so I was on the hunt to find out what this new urban environment truly is.

My grandmother lived in Winnipeg for approximately 50 years. She has seen the changes the North End went through throughout the years. She always recounts memories of her early adult life going out to North End house parties and watching the fights between couples, rowdies, or foes. On a few occasions she will spot someone she used to know 20-30 years ago. I get the feeling that she’s slightly unhappy that so many haven’t healed from their residential school past. My grandmother went to a residential school in Sagkeeng, and even though she refuses to tell me what happened, she still faces the trauma left behind. I lived with her for a few years when I moved to Winnipeg, and she told me the ‘ins & outs’ of the city. One time when I was 15, I got lost in the city and ended up in the South End by Grant Park Mall. She told me to walk around till I recognized my surroundings. 2 hours later, I eventually found the 18 bus!

That one incident taught me a lot about how to become resourceful during Transitioning out of CULTURE SHOCK:

1. Don’t get lost by yourself & be with a friend
2. Know your surroundings at all times & be cautious of predators
3. Get to know the area by familiarizing nearby community drop-in centers
4. Join an Aboriginal youth program or group
5. Attend community events &
6. VOLUNTEER! (Great for resume)

My mother would always tell me that when she was growing up in Winnipeg there were only a few programs out there for young people, so she would have to kill time roaming the streets. Moving to Winnipeg, I had no idea what programs were out there for youth, let alone Aboriginal people. After getting lost already, I wasn’t sure roaming around would be the best idea. Nowadays, there’s Aboriginal youth programs everywhere in the North End. To name off some of the Aboriginal youth programs offered in Winnipeg:

Eagle Urban Transition Centre; Aboriginal Youth Opportunities; Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre Inc.; Ka Ni Kanichihk; Pathways to Aboriginal Education Winnipeg; West End Cultural Centre; Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre; Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre; Indian Metis Friendship Centre; RAY (Resource Assistance for Youth); Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc.; West Broadway Neighbourhood Association; Spence Neighbourhood Association; Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network; B&L Resources for Children, Youth & Families; New Directions for Children, Youth & Families – TRY (Training Resources for Youth); MacDonald Youth Services-STEP Program; CAHRD; Songide’ewin Program – Alternative Education Program for Youth; Osbourne Village Resource Centre; Urban Circle Training Centre; MB Youth Transitional Employment Mentorship-MYTEAM; Rainbow Resource Centre; and Sage House.

What’s so exciting about these programs, is that they’re only growing and becoming more resourceful! It’s been 6 years now, and Winnipeg has definitely grown on me. It’s still smells like exhaust fumes, still has noisy streets, sirens, strangers, and light pollution; but I have found something here, I found a village. A village of amazing people that I have met throughout my years of living in Winnipeg that makes it hard to ever leave Winnipeg. I love the community that comes together whenever issues arise. I love the community that works hard volunteering in initiatives such as Indigenous Rock the Vote, Got Bannock, AYO, Drag the Red, etc. The hardworking people that work in the Aboriginal programs listed above. These are amazing people that put their heart and soul into the community work that they do. Aboriginal youth are rising up to the challenge of helping out fellow youth, wanting to be more involved in our city. This generation of hard working activists, students, educators, and community volunteers have shaped this city into something beautiful, somewhere that I am proud to live. Winnipeg isn’t perfect, but who’s to say it won’t ever be in the future when we invest in the youth.

As a fellow youth and Anishinaabe Ikwe in Winnipeg, with limited knowledge and experience being ‘urbanized’, it has amazed me at how resilient and empowering young people are for each other. I have seen this wave of youth engaging in community activities like Meet Me at the Bell Tower & AYO. I have seen young people come to university from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences. I have heard numerous stories from so many young people about wanting to become involved, but just don’t know how.

Well, my advice is to just DO IT! Get out there and take those opportunities! No matter where you come from or what you’ve been through, no one will judge you. The urban village is the place where we all help, encourage others to reach their full potential, and care for one another’s wellbeing. BUT that can only happen when all youth engage in our community and start leading the change. You will be amazed at what young people have done in Winnipeg! With your energy and youth power, so much more can be done! BE INVOLVED!


Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie